We investigated a major geographic break in mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) haplotypes in deer mice, Peromyscus maniculatus, by analysing spatial variation in a 491-bp fragment of the mtDNA control region from 455 samples distributed across a north–south transect of 2000 km in Western North America. To determine whether the mtDNA break was reflected in the nuclear genome, we then compared spatial variation in 13 nuclear microsatellites of 95 individuals surrounding the mtDNA break. Using a canonical correlation analysis we found that nuclear genomic variation was not correlated with mtDNA differentiation. The contrasting patterns of variation in mtDNA and nuclear DNA are consistent with a hypothesis of historic genetic drift that occurred in isolated refugia combined with recent gene flow between the formerly isolated refugial populations. A Mantel test of genetic vs. geographic distance revealed that recent gene flow between deer mouse populations has been high. We conclude that past vicariant events associated with Pleistocene climate changes together with recent gene flow have created the observed intra-specific cytonuclear discordance in Western North America.
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